Artificial intelligence is one of the most discussed topis in society now. This is not news, but can be seen in the most diverse areas of everyday life. For example in the growing number of exhibitions about and with AI. For our mini-series AI in museums, we visited two exhibitions in the immediate vicinity.
The second part of the series takes us to the Stadtmuseum in Tübingen. The exhibition "Cyber and the City — Artificial Intelligence moves Tübingen" can be seen there from February 11, 2023 to January 21, 2024.
Idea, aim and background of the exhibition
The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the University of Tübingen and the Stadtmuseum Tübingen. It was developed over three semesters by twelve students of Empirical Cultural Studies and 20 students of the Master's program in Machine Learning, together with professors from both subjects.
The background to the project is the structural change taking place in Tübingen towards becoming a leading location for artificial intelligence, as initiated by the founding of Cyber Valley in 2016. This has had far-reaching consequences for society, the economy and politics in and around Tübingen, which in turn has triggered major debates between representatives of a wide range of positions. The Cyber and the City exhibition aims to bring clarity to these debates by addressing four fundamental questions:
- What is artificial intelligence and how does it work?
- What do researchers and critics of AI have to say?
- How and with what goal is research being conducted in Tübingen in particular?
- And how is this changing the city and how are the discussions taking place?
The aim of the exhibition is, on the one hand, to clarify and inform what the term artificial intelligence means and to provide space for discussion and critical debate.
The exhibition is divided into four parts, each of which provides answers to the four underlying questions. First, the background and aims of the exhibition are addressed and the impact that artificial intelligence will have on the future is generally explained. In the next room, various people from research, politics and society describe their views — positive or critical — on AI in short interviews, which take place one after the other.
The second part is dedicated entirely to the technology behind AI and is designed to explain the workings, limitations and possibilities of the technology in a clear and understandable way. To this end, the curators have created six exhibits, each of which interactively explains how AI works (inventing, calculating, sorting, including and excluding, recognizing and learning).
In a third part, various places and institutions in Tübingen that deal with AI or are associated with it are presented. These include Cyber Valley, the RHET AI Center, the AI Makerspace, the Tübingen AI Center and the University of Tübingen.
The final section of the exhibition focuses on the discussions that have been and continue to be held about AI and its impact on Tübingen.
The four exhibition sections are complemented by the art installation HumanO[i]de I Ode to Being Human by photo artist Sabine Bloch.
The Perspective on AI
Visitors experience AI in the exhibition in two ways. On the one hand, in a descriptive and explanatory way in terms of its functions, limits and possibilities and, on the other hand, in relation to Tübingen and the changes it will bring for the city and the local people.
Visitors can experience the six AI functions on display through interactive exhibits. For example, the ability to learn is simulated by a matchbox computer. This contains tiles in the individual boxes that represent moves from the game Tic Tac Toe. Using a touchpad, visitors can now compete against the computer, which learns with each game and increasingly selects the moves that make it invincible. This exhibit was developed by Amelie Schäfer and Rosina Baumann. They have also developed a matchbox computer kit that can be rebuilt at home and the computer's learning curve can be observed.
The interactive map: AI locations in Tübingen shows visitors where and how widespread AI is already in Tübingen, i.e. where and in what ways it is being researched or worked on.
Various exhibits, such as flyers, banners, protest posters, etc., take up the protest against Cyber Valley and make the critics' points clear to visitors, so that they are invited to form a more comprehensive picture of AI for themselves on the basis of the information they have acquired and to join in the discourse.
Science Communication Perspective
From a science communication perspective, the exhibition is a successful example of low-threshold, descriptive and differentiated information on the topic of AI. The exhibition aims to provide information and explain the background so that visitors can form their own opinion on AI-related structural change in Tübingen at the end of their visit.
Therefore, the exhibition picks up visitors right from the start by explaining basic concepts and background information in a clear and understandable way. The second block of the exhibition on the technology behind AI is particularly successful. The technologies are explained clearly and interactively without having to resort to hackneyed presentations. The barriers are low and both children and adults can understand what the individual exhibits are trying to explain.
Of course, this low threshold has the disadvantage that the information remains at a basic level and does not introduce the topic in any depth. As a result, aspects of AI that would be necessary for a more complete understanding of the technology remain unexplored. However, this is not the aim of the exhibition, but to provide basic information and thus break open the "black box of AI" a little, which has certainly been achieved.